Republican cuts give Clinton a trump card

After sweeping almost all before it since last November's mid-term triumph, the Republican juggernaut is at risk of being stalled by a widening dispute over party plans to cut Medicare - essential if it is to keep its central electoral promise of reducing taxes and yet balancing the federal budget by 2002.

Thus far life in command of Capitol Hill has been relatively simple for the Republicans. The Speaker Newt Gingrich's House of Representatives kept its word by voting on the 10 articles of the Contract with America, including a $189bn (£117.4bn) five-year tax cuts package, and President Bill Clinton last month was reduced to pleading on television for his political ''relevance''.

But after six all-conquering months, times are changing. Abruptly, conservatives have been put on the defensive by the Oklahoma bombing, which has helped to nudge Mr Clinton's approval rating to nearly 60 per cent, close to the highest of his presidency. Further trouble is promised by Dr Henry Foster, the President's nominee for Surgeon-General, whose success at this week's confirmation hearings threatens to bring about an embarrassing rerun on the Senate floor of the great Republican schism on abortion.

But no problem looms larger than fulfilling the balanced budget promise. And no aspect of it will be politically more difficult, yet more necessary in financial terms, than dealing with Medicare, the federal health plan for elderly and disabled Americans which - unless taxes are raised or its benefits trimmed - is forecast to go bankrupt by that same year of 2002.

Next week, the first blueprint for a balanced budget will be put forward by the Senate Budget Committee chairman, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, seeking more than $1,000bn of cuts over seven years, with $250bn - the largest single share - coming from Medicare. But a furious reaction from senior citizens' organisations, a lobby eclipsing even Jewish interest groups or the National Rifle Association in terms of political clout, has sent the Republicans running for cover and handed Mr Clinton what Democratic strategists believe could be a trump card as he starts his campaign for re-election in 1996.

Neatly out-manoeuvring his foes, the President deflected an appeal from Mr Gingrich and the Senate majority leader, Bob Dole, for bipartisan talks on the Medicare issue, telling a White House conference on the problems of elderly people that he would not discuss Medicare reform until Republicans had agreed a balanced budget plan.

That task will be anything but easy: Mr Domenici, a fervent believer in spending reductions first, tax cuts later, is at odds with the presidential contender Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who insists on an immediate start on the $189bn House proposal, and to a lesser extent with Mr Dole.

Worse still, Mr Clinton has been able to portray Republicans as the heartless party of the rich, using money saved by reducing benefits for the elderly to finance capital gains tax cuts and other largesse for the well off. The charge is naturally rejected by Messrs Dole and Gingrich, who accuse the President of playing cheap politics with the healthcare concerns of much of the population.

But thus far a buoyant and resurgent Mr Clinton clearly has the initiative - so much so that his two rivals were reduced to walking angrily out of a press conference this week, complaining that every question was about Republican plans for Medicare. To charges of political opportunism, the White House has a ready answer. Mr Clinton, it says, did indeed try to come to grips with Medicare problems, targeting it for $120bn of savings in his 1994 health reform plan - torn to shreds by the Republicans.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
Visitors look at a drone equipped with cameras on a police car at the Gitex Technology week in Dubai
tech
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
News
i100(More than you think)
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
News
i100
News
people
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Executive - Software

£20000 - £25000 per annum + 55,000 OTE + benifits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Software Sa...

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton; £400p/d

£400 - £420 per day: Langley James : IT Project Manager; 6 month FTC; Brighton...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?